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Mel Curtis: photographies Èclectiques

LISA HARRIS GALLERY, SEATTLE
September 7, 2000 - September 30, 2000


Rock Walk, Dumbarton Oaks (1989),
hand-tinted photograph

This exhibition spanning twenty years of Mel Curtis's attention to cities, gardens, architecture and the figure is of particular interest because of the artist's parallel concern with experimentation in the changing chemical and electronic technology that governs all photography. Indeed, Curtis is as much a printmaker as he is a cameraman, lavishing perhaps more time on a finished print than on the search for new or startling images. Curtis's photographs tend toward romantic and arcadian views of nature, and reveal in evocative detail the venerable streets and architecture of Europe, His prints reinforce the photographed textures and surfaces in the way quality rag paper heightens etchings. Many of his vistas have been photographed repeatedly ñ Mont St. Michel; the gargoyles atop Notre Dame ñ but the threat of a clichÈd image is of less concern to him than proving he can control and manipulate a process as never before. Over the years, Curtis has moved from hand-printing silver gelatin to creating colour Iris prints from digital files. Planning to keep working in both chemical and digital darkrooms, he quips, ìI'll be called old-fashioned when I'm the only photographer still handling darkroom chemicals.î In the illustrated ìRock Walk, Dumbarton Oaksî (1989), Curtis transforms a prosaic panorama into a dreamlike and golden promenade with the mysteriously frozen quality found in a pin-hole camera time exposure of flowing water. Here, literally everything has stopped, as if the world has been immersed in amber. He has astutely, almost magically, made this scene his very own.

© Ted Lindberg